Christopher Hitchens

The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has — from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.

Christopher Hitchens (13 April 194915 December 2011) was an English-American journalist and author of twelve books on politics, literature, and religion, including his anti-religion polemic, God Is Not Great.

QuotesEdit

  • The Baghdad regime is the first oil-producing government to opt for 100-per-cent nationalisation, a process completed with the acquisition of foreign assets in Basrah last December. It was the first to call for the use of oil as a political weapon against Israel and her backers. It gives strong economic and political support to the ‘Rejection Front’ Palestinians who oppose Arafat’s conciliation and are currently trying to outface the Syrians in Beirut. And it has a leader — Saddam Hussain[sic] — who has sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser.
  • ...in fact, the war against Iraq is continuing. And it's continuing now by the means which the administration described as contemptible and useless, when they were put forth as an alternative to an actual all-out aerial bombardment. Namely, economic sanctions, which do have the effect of slowly starving and crippling the population of Iraq, while leaving the military cast of Saddam Hussein and his criminal Baath Party in charge. I was asked the other day ... why do you think the administration decided to spare Saddam Hussein ... and I said I think because they thought they might need him again...
  • For a lot of people, their first love is what they'll always remember. For me it's always been the first hate, and I think that hatred, though it provides often rather junky energy, is a terrific way of getting you out of bed in the morning and keeping you going. If you don't let it get out of hand, it can be canalized into writing. In this country where people love to be nonjudgmental when they can be, which translates as, on the whole, lenient, there are an awful lot of bubble reputations floating around that one wouldn't be doing one's job if one didn't itch to prick.
  • If most of those who took part in this one-dimensional debate were honest with themselves, they would admit that they do not in principle believe that the United States can do any good overseas for anyone but the American government, its armed forces, or privileged American elites.
  • I can never quite decide whether the anti-Columbus movement is merely risible or faintly sinister....It is sinister, though, because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred.
    • "Minority Report", The Nation, October 19, 1992. Also quoted in Steven Salaita,

The Holy Land in Transit:Colonialism And the Quest for Canaan. Syracuse University Press, 2006.(p. 68).

  • ..those who view the history of North America as a narrative of genocide and slavery are, it seems to me, hopelessly stuck on this reactionary position. They can think of the Western expansion of the United States only in terms of plague blankets, bootleg booze and dead buffalo, never in terms of the medicine chest, the wheel and the railway.
    • "Minority Report", The Nation, October 19, 1992; also in Salaita, p. 68.
  • The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into "America" inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and thus deserves to be celebrated with great vim and gusto, with or without the participation of those who wish they had never been born.
    • "Minority Report", The Nation, October 19, 1992; also in Salaita, p. 68.
  • The next stop on Reagan's European tour after Bitburg was Madrid, where he made a speech in which he said, "I know there's been a lot of controversy about the United States and Spain at that time, indeed some Americans once came here to fight in the civil war." He said, "But the thing is," said Reagan, "they were on the wrong side." In other words a conscious choice, a conscious and deliberate remark showing that the sympathy for fascism, not accidental, not anecdotal, not a slip of the tongue, but something bred-in-the-bone; and, I think, also worth recalling.
  • [George W. Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things.
    • Hardball with Chris Matthews, (2000) [1]
  • Many if not most of Kissinger's partners in crime are now in jail, or are awaiting trial, or have been otherwise punished or discredited. His own lonely impunity is rank; it smells to heaven. If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate the philosopher Anacharsis, who mantained that laws were like cobwebs; strong enough to detain only the weak, and too weak to hold the strong. In the name of innumerable victims known and unknown, it is time for justice to take a hand.
  • Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
  • MT [ Mother Teresa ] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.
  • The realization that American power could and should be used for the defense of pluralism and as a punishment for fascism came to me in Sarajevo a year or two later... That was an early quarrel between me and many of my Nation colleagues, and it was also the first time I found myself in the same trench as people like Paul Wolfowitz and Jeane Kirkpatrick: a shock I had to learn to get over.
  • The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has — from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.
  • Principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.
    • As quoted in Merchey, Jason (2004). Values of the Wise : Aspiring to "The Life of Value". p. 330. 
  • Ronald Reagan claimed that the Russian language had no word for "freedom." (The word is "svoboda"; it's quite well attested in Russian literature.)...said that intercontinental ballistic missiles (not that there are any non-ballistic missiles—a corruption of language that isn't his fault) could be recalled once launched...said that he sought a "Star Wars" defense only in order to share the technology with the tyrants of the U.S.S.R...professed to be annoyed when people called it "Star Wars," even though he had ended his speech on the subject with the lame quip, "May the force be with you"...used to alarm his Soviet counterparts by saying that surely they'd both unite against an invasion from Mars...used to alarm other constituencies by speaking freely about the "End Times" foreshadowed in the Bible. In the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan told Yitzhak Shamir and Simon Wiesenthal, on two separate occasions, that he himself had assisted personally at the liberation of the Nazi death camps.

    There was more to Ronald Reagan than that. Reagan announced that apartheid South Africa had "stood beside us in every war we've ever fought," when the South African leadership had been on the other side in the most recent world war...allowed Alexander Haig to greenlight the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, fired him when that went too far and led to mayhem in Beirut, then ran away from Lebanon altogether when the Marine barracks were bombed, and then unbelievably accused Tip O'Neill and the Democrats of "scuttling."...sold heavy weapons to the Iranian mullahs and lied about it, saying that all the weapons he hadn't sold them (and hadn't traded for hostages in any case) would, all the same, have fit on a small truck...then diverted the profits of this criminal trade to an illegal war in Nicaragua and lied unceasingly about that, too...then modestly let his underlings maintain that he was too dense to understand the connection between the two impeachable crimes. He then switched without any apparent strain to a policy of backing Saddam Hussein against Iran. (If Margaret Thatcher's intelligence services had not bugged Oliver North in London and become infuriated because all European nations were boycotting Iran at Reagan's request, we might still not know about this.) One could go on...This was a man never short of a cheap jibe or the sort of falsehood that would, however laughable, buy him some time.

  • Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.
  • They ("Islamo-fascists") gave us no peace and we shouldn’t give them any. We can't live on the same planet as them and I'm glad because I don’t want to. I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murderers and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It's them or me. I'm very happy about this because I know it will be them. It’s a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it's also a pleasure. I don’t regard it as a grim task at all.
  • The enormous dynamic and creative, as well as destructive energy of capitalism... is written up with more praise and more respect by Marx and Engels in the 1848 Communist Manifesto than probably by anyone since. I don't think anyone has ever said so precisely and with such awed admiration how great capitalism is, how inventive, how innovative, how dynamic, how much force of creativity it unleashes.
  • I'll grant you that it would possible to track the pregnancy of the woman Mary who's mentioned about three times in the Bible and to show there was no male intervention in her life at all but yet she delivered herself of a healthy baby boy. I can say— I don't say that's impossible. Parthenogenesis is not completely unthinkable. It does not prove that his paternity is divine and it wouldn't prove that any of his moral teachings were thereby correct. Nor, if I was to see him executed one day and see him walking the streets the next, would that show that his father was God or his mother was a virgin or that his teachings were true, especially given the commonplace nature of resurrection at that time and place. After all, Lazarus was raised, never said a word about it. The daughter of Jairus was raised, didn't say a thing about what she'd been through. And the Gospels tell us that at the time of the crucifixion all the graves in Jerusalem opened and their occupants wandered around the streets to greet people. So it seems resurrection was something of a banality at the time. Not all of those people clearly were divinely conceived. So I'll give you all the miracles and you'll still be left exactly where you are now, holding an empty sack.
  • My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass.
    • "Be It Resolved: Freedom of Speech Includes the Freedom to Hate," debate at University of Toronto, (2006-11-15). Hitchens argued the affirmative position. Info; video.
  • You may choose, if you wish, to parrot the line that Watergate was a "long national nightmare," but some of us found it rather exhilarating to see a criminal President successfully investigated and exposed and discredited. And we do not think it in the least bit nightmarish that the Constitution says that such a man is not above the law. Ford's ignominious pardon of this felonious thug meant, first, that only the lesser fry had to go to jail. It meant, second, that we still do not even know why the burglars were originally sent into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. In this respect, the famous pardon is not unlike the Warren Commission: another establishment exercise in damage control and pseudo-reassurance (of which Ford was also a member) that actually raised more questions than it answered. The fact is that serious trials and fearless investigations often are the cause of great division, and rightly so.
  • It [Obama's Nobel peace prize] would be like giving someone an Oscar in the hope that it would encourage them to make a decent motion picture.
  • There are several pleasant little towns like Abbottabad in Pakistan, strung out along the roads that lead toward the mountains from Rawalpindi...The colonial British—like Maj. James Abbott, who gave his name to this one—called them "hill stations," designed for the rest and recreation of commissioned officers. The charming idea, like the location itself, survives among the Pakistani officer corps. If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. It's the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath.
  • In what people irritatingly call "iconic" terms, Bin Laden certainly had no rival. The strange, scrofulous quasi-nobility and bogus spirituality of his appearance was appallingly telegenic, and it will be highly interesting to see whether this charisma survives the alternative definition of revolution that has lately transfigured the Muslim world. The most tenaciously lasting impression of all, however, is that of his sheer irrationality. What had the man thought he was doing? Ten years ago, did he expect, let alone desire, to be in a walled compound in dear little Abbottabad?...Ten years ago, I remind you, he had a gigantic influence in one rogue and failed state—Afghanistan—and was exerting an increasing force over its Pakistani neighbor. Taliban and al-Qaida sympathizers were in senior positions in the Pakistani army and nuclear program and had not yet been detected as such. Huge financial subventions flowed his way, often through official channels, from Saudi Arabia and other gulf states.... Then, not only did he run away from Afghanistan, leaving his deluded followers to be killed in very large numbers, but he chose to remain a furtive and shady figure, on whom the odds of a successful covert "hit," or bought-and-paid-for betrayal, were bound to lengthen every day...It seems thinkable that he truly believed his own mad propaganda, often adumbrated on tapes and videos, especially after the American scuttle from Somalia. The West, he maintained, was rotten with corruption and run by cabals of Jews and homosexuals. It had no will to resist. It had become feminized and cowardly. One devastating psychological blow and the rest of the edifice would gradually follow the Twin Towers in a shower of dust. Well, he and his fellow psychopaths did succeed in killing thousands in North America and Western Europe, but in the past few years, their main military triumphs have been against such targets as Afghan schoolgirls, Shiite Muslim civilians, and defenseless synagogues in Tunisia and Turkey. Has there ever been a more contemptible leader from behind, or a commander who authorized more blanket death sentences on bystanders?
  • All this could be part of a plan. But it’s some plan, isn’t it?; With mass destruction, pitiless extermination and annihilation going on all the time.
    • "The Great God Debate", Christopher Hitchens vs. David Wolpe, 23/03/2010 [2]
  • If this was the plan - was it made by someone who likes us? And if so, why have 99.9% of all the other species that have ever been created already died out? And part of what plan was that?; If it is a plan or a design, the planner must be either very capricious - really toying with his creation; and/or very clumsy, very tinkering and fantastically wasteful - throw away 99.9% of what you've made; or very cruel and very callous; or just perhaps very indifferent; or some combination of all the above. And so it's no good saying that He moves in mysterious ways, or that He has purposes that are opaque to us, because even that kind of evasion has to make itself predicate on the assumption that the person saying this knows more than I do about the supernatural, and I haven't yet met anyone who does have a private line to the creator, of the sort that would be required even to speculate about it. In other words, I haven't met anyone, in holy orders or out of it, who isn't also a primate. And neither have you. [3]
    • "Does Religion Poison Everything?", Festival of Dangerous Ideas, October 2009
  • Is there anything that is forbidden to anybody who says they have God on their side? Who says they have God with them? Is there any evil that they forbid themselves to do? [4]
    • "Is Christianity the Problem?", debate with Dinesh D'Souza, 22/10/2007
  • What makes the Israel-Palestine two-state solution ungettable? Because there’s a chunk of people on both sides who say they have God in their corner and God gave only their group the land, and they can negate the votes of everybody else including the whole of the international community, by the way, just because of their faith. [5]
  • I ask myself why do these worshipers of this God want to convict him of being such a crummy designer - most of his creations die off, the rest suffer miserably; of being cruel and capricious and bungling and incompetent and callous as a father? [www.youtube.com/watch?v=THHapkLeSGo?t=24m23s]
    • Christopher Hitchens vs John Lennox - Is God Great? [2009]
  • Beware of solipsism. Don't ever think you are the center of the world. Be very careful of assuming that you are the object of a divine design. That there's something special just about being you. That that's all you have to prove - that, why wouldn't a person such as yourself have God on their side; Why wouldn't it be - 'of course God would care who I slept with, what I ate, what holy day I observed, why would He not? Surely that's why the heavens are arranged in the starry beauty and array in the form they take.' -- You are forced to wonder, if maybe - even though it's a less beautiful thought - it could be that the galaxies are not arranged with you in mind. [6]
    • Christopher Hitchens vs Douglas Wilson [2008]
  • The clear awareness of having been born into a losing struggle need not lead one into despair. I do not especially like the idea that one day I shall be tapped on the shoulder and informed, not that the party is over but that it is most assuredly going on—only henceforth in my absence. (It's the second of those thoughts: the edition of the newspaper that will come out on the day after I have gone, that is the more distressing.) Much more horrible, though, would be the announcement that the party was continuing forever, and that I was forbidden to leave. Whether it was a hellishly bad party or a party that was perfectly heavenly in every respect, the moment that it became eternal and compulsory would be the precise moment that it began to pall.
    • Hitch 22: A Memoir (2010), "Something of Myself".

For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports (1993)Edit

  • That most risky and volatile of all things—a self-pitying majority.
  • It is rather a pity, considered from the standpoint of the professional politician or opinion-taker, that nobody knows exactly what "credibility" is, or how one acquires it. "Credibility" doesn't stand for anything morally straightforward, like meaning what you say or saying what you mean. Nor does it signify anything remotely quantifiable — any correlation between evidence presented and case made. Suggestively, perhaps, it entered the language as a consensus euphemism during the Vietnam War, when "concerned" members of the Eastern Establishment spoke of a "credibility gap" rather than give awful utterance to the thought that the Johnson administration was systematically lying. To restore its "credibility," that administration was urged — not to stop lying, but to improve its public presentation. At some stage in the lesson learned from that injunction, the era of postmodern politics began. It doesn't seem ridiculous now to have "approval ratings" that fluctuate from week to week, because these are based upon the all-important "perception" factor, which has in turn quite lost its own relationship to the word "perceptive."
    • "Credibility Politics: Sado-Monetarist Economics" (1989)
  • We have preachers and savants who dilate endlessly on the sanctity of family and childhood but who tolerate a system in which a casual observer can correlate a child's social origin with its physical well-being.
    • "Hating Sweden" (1989)
  • It was an axiom of "containment" that no part of the known world could be considered neutral. "Neutralism" was among the Cold Warriors' gravest curse words, applied with caustic hostility to India and even France. Those who were not with were against, subjected to intense economic and ideological — and sometimes military — pressure to fall into line.
    • "How Neo-Conservatives Perish" (1990)
  • There is a limit to the success of conservative populism and the exploitation of "little guy" or "silent majority" rhetoric, and it is very often reached because of the emaciated, corrupted personalities of the demagogues themselves.
    • "Nixon: Maestro of Resentment" (1990)
  • Every campaign, Garry Wills once wrote, "taught Nixon the same lesson: mobilize resentment against those in power." History taught the same to many conservative and reactionary populist movements, whose real attitude to those in power and authority was one of a servile, envious, vicarious adoration.
    • "Nixon: Maestro of Resentment" (1990)
  • The reading public isn't born that doesn't think foreigners are either funny or faintly sinister.
  • The conservative aptitude for stressing the "individual responsibility" of all parties except themselves.
    • "Not Funny Enough (2)" (1991)
  • The disquieting thing about newscaster-babble or editorial-speak is its ready availability as a serf idiom, a vernacular of deference. "Mr. Secretary, are we any nearer to bringing about a dialogue in this process?"
    • "Politically Correct" (1991)
  • What a country, and what a culture, when the liberals cry before they are hurt, and the reactionaries pose as brave nonconformists, while the radicals make a fetish of their own jokey irrelevance.
    • "Politically Correct" (1991)
  • It is not enough to "have" free speech. People must learn to speak freely. Noam Chomsky remarked in the sixties about the short-life ultra-radicals on campus who thought that Marx should have been burning down the British Museum rather than writing and thinking in it. The less political descendants of that faction have now tried to reduce life to a system of empowerment etiquette, and have wasted a lot of their own time and everyone else's in the process. But the real bridle on our tongues is imposed by the everyday lying and jargon, sanctioned and promulgated at the highest levels of media and politics, and not by the awkward handful who imagine themselves revolutionaries.
    • "Politically Correct" (1991)
  • There is a reason for the affected profession of "anarchist sympathies" among Tories and grandees, and of "libertarian principles" by Hobbesian yahoos of the right. Among the former, one sees the upholding of the view that a gentleman's business and property are his own, and none of the government's. Among the latter, a distaste for democracy, for taxation, and for the need to consult others about the planet.
    • "Shouting Anarchy" (1989)
  • Rushdie had written a book of nonfiction which offered critical but decided support to the Nicaraguan revolution. He had also been eloquent about the rights of the ever-relegated Palestinians. What more natural, when he was threatened with assassination by contract, than to jubilate about a terrorist-symp who had been caught in his own logic? I counted some ten newspaper and magazine columns from the Podhoretz school, all making this same point in the same words — demonstrating the impressive Zhdanovite discipline that is the special mark of the faction. All of them seemed to regard the affair as some sort of heavenly revenge for the sin of radical promiscuity; much as they have represented the AIDS crisis as a vengeance as on sixties morality. The ethical nullity of these positions never got beyond mere gloating, and will one day help to illustrate the essential distinction between irony and brutish sarcasm.
    • "Siding with Rushdie" (1989)
  • Perhaps the values of socialists can only be realized by socialists in a nonsocialist society.
    • "The Free Market Cargo Cult" (1990)
  • The pornography of tough-mindedness, covert action, and preparedness for "peace through strength" has had a predictably hypnotic effect on the legislative branch, turning it from legal watchdog to lapdog.
    • "The State Within the State" (1991)
  • "Peace through Strength," surely history's most exploded nostrum.
    • "The Twilight of Panzerkommunismus" (1988)
  • The United States has an isolationist and insular culture, combined with a global and interventionist posture. This highly dangerous and febrile mixture, which greatly facilitates the task of the fear-mongers and chauvinists, needs a very exact and nuanced diagnosis. I don't think that analogies from the totalitarian model, however suggestive, are sufficient.
    • "The 'We' Fallacy" (1988)
  • The polls undoubtedly help to decide what people think, but their most important long-term influence may be on how people think. The interrogative process is very distinctly weighted against the asking of an intelligent question or the recording of a thoughtful answer.
    • "Voting in the Passive Voice" (1992)

Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere (2000)Edit

  • Intellectuals never sound more foolish than when posing as the last civilised man.
    • "The Egg-Head's Egger-On" (2000)
  • The secular state is the guarantee of religious pluralism. This apparent paradox, again, is the simplest and most elegant of political truths.
    • "Ireland" (1998)
  • All the excitements of a prohibited book had their usual effect, one of which, as always, is to expose the fact that the censors don't know what they are talking about.
    • "Not Dead Yet" (1999)
  • That phrase, "loss of innocence," has become stale with overuse and diminishing returns; no other culture is so addicted to this narcissistic impression of itself as having any innocence to lose in the first place.
    • "The Road to West Egg" (2000)

Letters to a Young Contrarian (2001)Edit

  • The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.
  • Every day, the New York Times carries a motto in a box on its front page. "All the News That's Fit to Print," it says. It's been saying it for decades, day in and day out. I imagine most readers of the canonical sheet have long ceased to notice this bannered and flaunted symbol of its mental furniture. I myself check every day to make sure that the bright, smug, pompous, idiotic claim is still there. Then I check to make sure that it still irritates me. If I can still exclaim, under my breath, why do they insult me and what do they take me for and what the hell is it supposed to mean unless it's as obviously complacent and conceited and censorious as it seems to be, then at least I know I still have a pulse. You may wish to choose a more rigorous mental workout but I credit this daily infusion of annoyance with extending my lifespan.
  • I have been called arrogant myself in my time, and hope to earn the title again, but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator — that's beyond my conceit. I therefore have no choice but to find something suspect even in the humblest believer. Even the most humane and compassionate of the monotheisms and polytheisms are complicit in this quiet and irrational authoritarianism: they proclaim us, in Fulke Greville's unforgettable line, "Created sick — Commanded to be well." And there are totalitarian insinuations to back this up if its appeal should fail. Christians, for example, declare me redeemed by a human sacrifice that occurred thousands of years before I was born. I didn't ask for it, and would willingly have foregone it, but there it is: I'm claimed and saved whether I wish it or not. And if I refuse the unsolicited gift? Well, there are still some vague mutterings about an eternity of torment for my ingratitude. That is somewhat worse than a Big Brother state, because there could be no hope of its eventually passing away.

    In any case, I find something repulsive about the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There's no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Paine pointed out, you may if you wish take on another man's debt, or even to take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the concept of free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out the ethical principles for ourselves.

    You can see the same immorality or amorality in the Christian view of guilt and punishment. There are only two texts, both of them extreme and mutually contradictory. The Old Testament injunction is the one to exact an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (it occurs in a passage of perfectly demented detail about the exact rules governing mutual ox-goring; you should look it up in its context Exodus 21). The second is from the Gospels and says that only those without sin should cast the first stone. The first is a moral basis for capital punishment and other barbarities; the second is so relativistic and "nonjudgmental" that it would not allow the prosecution of Charles Manson. Our few notions of justice have had to evolve despite these absurd codes of ultra vindictiveness and ultracompassion.

    Judaism has some advantages over Christianity in that, for example, it does not proselytise — except among Jews — and it does not make the cretinous mistake of saying that the Messiah has already made his appearance. However, along with Islam and Christianity, it does insist that some turgid and contradictory and sometimes evil and mad texts, obviously written by fairly unexceptional humans, are in fact the word of god. I think that the indispensable condition of any intellectual liberty is the realisation that there is no such thing.

  • Time spent arguing with the faithful is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.
  • Only a humorless tyrant could want a perpetual chanting of praises that, one has no choice but to assume, would be the innate virtues and splendors furnished him by his creator, infinite regression, drowned in praise!
  • Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007)Edit

  • Why, if God was the creator of all things, were we supposed to "praise" him for what came naturally? (p. 3)
  • If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness? (p. 3)
  • Evolution has meant that our prefrontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big, and our reproductive organs apparently designed by committee; a recipe which, alone or in combination, is very certain to lead to some unhappiness and disorder. (p. 8)
  • I shall simply say that those who offer false consolation are false friends. (p. 9)
  • Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did. (p. 9)
  • The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted. (p. 11)
  • Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience. (p. 56)
  • Religion, it is true, still possesses the huge if cumbersome and unwieldy advantage of having come "first." (p. 96)
  • Nothing proves the man-made character of religion as obviously as the sick mind that designed hell, unless it is the sorely limited mind that has failed to describe heaven — except as a place of either worldly comfort, eternal tedium, or (as Tertullian thought) continual relish in the torture of others. (p. 219)
  • We atheists do not require any priests, or any hierarchy above them, to police our doctrine. Sacrifices and ceremonies are abhorrent to us, as are relics of worship of any images or objects ... To us no spot on earth is or could be "holier" than another: to the ostentatious absurdity of the pilgrimage, or the plain horror of killing civilians in the name of some sacred wall or cave or shrine or rock, we can counterpose a leisurely or urgent walk from one side of the library or the gallery to another, or to lunch with an agreeable friend, in pursuit of truth and beauty.
  • The Old Testament, as Christians condescendingly call it, has woman cloned from man for his use and comfort. The New Testament has Saint Paul expressing both fear and contempt for the female. Throughout all religious texts, there is a primitive fear that half the human race is simultaneously defiled and unclean, and yet is also a temptation to sin that is impossible to resist.
  • Then there is the very salient question of what the commandments do not say. Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide? Or is it too exactingly ‘in context’ to notice that some of these very offenses are about to be positively recommended?
  • [W]e ought to be glad that none of the religious myths has any truth to it, or in it. The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.

On Intelligent Design, Science and ReligionEdit

  • A modern believer can say and even believe that his faith is quite compatible with science and medicine, but the awkward fact will always be that both things have a tendency to break religion's monopoly, and have often been fiercely resisted for that reason. What happens to the faith healer and the shaman when any poor citizen can see the full effect of drugs and surgeries, administered without ceremonies or mystifications? Roughly the same thing as happens to the rainmaker when the climatologist turns up, or to the diviner from the heavens when schoolteachers get hold of elementary telescopes. (p. 47)
  • Scientific critics of religion such as Daniel Dennett have been generous enough to point out that apparently useless healing rituals may even have helped people get better, in that we know how important morale can be in aiding the body to fight injury and infection. (p. 47)
  • Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody — not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms — had the smallest idea of what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge. Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion. (p. 64)
  • One may choose to call that "god" even if one does not know the precise nature of the first cause. (p. 71)
  • Since human beings are naturally solipsistic, all forms of superstition enjoy what might be called a natural advantage. (p. 74)
  • The brilliant Schiller was wrong in Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans)] when he said "against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." It is actually by means of the gods that we make our stupidity and gullibility into something ineffable. (p. 77)
  • Of the other bodies in our solar system alone, the rest are all either far too cold to support anything recognizable as life, or far too hot. The same, as it happens, is true of our own blue and rounded planetary home, where heat contends with cold to make large tracts of it into useless wasteland, and where we have come to learn that we live, and have always lived, on a climatic knife edge. Meanwhile, the sun is getting ready to explode and devour its dependent planets like some jealous chief or tribal deity. Some design! (p. 80)
  • When the bones of prehistoric animals began to be discovered and scrutinized in the nineteenth century, there were those who said that the fossils had been placed in the rock by god, in order to test our faith. This cannot be disproved. Nor can my own pet theory that, from the patterns of behavior that are observable, we may infer a design that makes planet earth, all unknown to us, a prison colony and lunatic asylum that is employed as a dumping ground by far-off and superior civilizations. (p. 81)
  • Though it is true we are the highest and smartest animals, ospreys have eyes we have calculated to be sixty times more powerful and sophisticated than our own and that blindness, often caused by microscopic parasites that are themselves miracles of ingenuity, is one of the oldest and most tragic disorders known to man. And why award the superior eye (or in the case of cat or bat, also the ear) to the inferior species. (pp. 82–83)
  • Exceptional claims require exceptional evidence. (p. 143)

On the Ten CommandmentsEdit

  • In particular, it is absurd to hope to banish envy of other people’s possessions or fortunes, if only because the spirit of envy can lead to emulation and ambition and have positive consequences. (p. 100)
  • Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing about rape, nothing about the protection of children from cruelty, and nothing about genocide? Or is it exactingly "in context" to notice that some of these very offenses are about to be positively recommended? (p. 100)
  • I have interviewed some of the hundreds of thousands of people who claim to have had direct encounters with spacecraft, or the crew of spacecraft, from another galaxy. Some of these are so vivid and detailed (and so comparable with other depositions from other people who cannot have compared notes) that a few impressionable academics have proposed that we grant them the presumption of truth. But here is the obvious Ockhamist reason why it would be utterly wrong to do so. If the huge number of "contacts" and abductees are telling even a particle of truth, then it follows that their alien friends are not attempting to keep their existence a secret. Well, in that case, why do they never stay still for anything more than a single-shot photo? There has never been an uncut roll of film offered, let alone a small piece of a metal unavailable on earth, or a tiny sample of tissue. And sketches of the being have a consistent anthropomorphic resemblance to those offered in science fiction comics. Since travel from Alpha Centauri (the preferred origin) would involve some bending of the laws of physics, even the smallest particle of matter would be of enormous use, and would have a literally earth-shattering effect. Instead of which — nothing. Nothing, that is, except texts and shards that are available only to a favored few. (p. 144)
  • Those who desire to certify miracles may wish to say that such recoveries have no "natural" explanation. But this does not at all mean that there is therefore a "supernatural" one. (pp. 147–148)
  • If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world. (p. 220)
  • The shedding of blood — which is insisted upon at circumcision ceremonies — is most probably a symbolic survival from the animal and human sacrifices which were such a feature of the gore-soaked landscape of the Old Testament. By adhering to the practice, parents could offer to sacrifice a part of the child as a stand-in for the whole. (pp. 223–224)

On JudaismEdit

  • I pose a hypothetical question. As a man of some fifty-seven years of age, I am discovered sucking the penis of a baby boy. I ask you to picture your own outrage and revulsion. Ah, but I have my own explanation all ready. I am a mohel: an appointed circumciser and foreskin remover. My authority comes from an ancient text, which commands me to take a baby boy’s penis in hand, cut around the prepuce, and complete the action by taking his penis in my mouth, sucking off the foreskin, and spitting out the amputated flap along with a mouthful of blood and saliva. (p. 49)

On Jesus, Christianity and the New TestamentEdit

  • "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Yes, and the Greek demigod Perseus was born when the god Jupiter visited the virgin Danaë as a shower of gold and got her with child. The god Buddha was born through an opening in his mother's flank. Catlicus the serpent-skirted caught a little ball of feathers from the sky and hid it in her bosom, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli was thus conceived. The virgin Nana took a pomegranate from the tree watered by the blood of the slain Agdestris, and laid it in her bosom, and gave birth to the god Attis. The virgin daughter of a Mongol king awoke one night and found herself bathed in a great light, which caused her to give birth to Genghis Khan. Krishna was born of the virgin Devaka. Horus was born of the virgin Isis. Mercury was born of the virgin Maia. Romulus was born of the virgin Rhea Sylvia. For some reason, many religions force themselves to think of the birth canal as a one-way street, and even the Koran treats the Virgin Mary with reverence. (p. 22–23)
  • Their multiple authors — none of whom published anything until many years after the Crucifixion — cannot agree on anything of importance. Matthew and Luke cannot concur on the Virgin Birth or the genealogy of Jesus. They flatly contradict each other on the "Flight into Egypt," Matthew saying that Joseph was "warned in a dream" to make an immediate escape and Luke saying that all three stayed in Bethlehem until Mary's "purification according to the laws of Moses," which would make it forty days, and then went back to Nazareth via Jerusalem. (Incidentally, if the dash to Egypt to conceal a child from Herod's infanticide campaign has any truth to it, then Hollywood and many, many Christian inconographers have been deceiving us. It would have been very difficult to take a blond, blue-eyed baby to the Nile delta without attracting rather than avoiding attention.) (p. 111)
  • The Gospel according to Luke states that the miraculous birth occurred in a year when the Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered a census for the purposes of taxation, and that this happened at a time when Herod reigned in Judaea and Quirinius was governor of Syria. That is the closest to a triangulation of historical dating that any writer even attempts. But Herod died four years "BC" and during his rulership the governor of Syria was not Quirinius. There is no mention of any Augustan census by any Roman historian, but the Jewish chronicler Josephus mentions one that did occur — without the onerous requirement for people to return to their places of birth, and six years after the birth of Jesus is supposed to have taken place. (p. 112)
  • Jesus makes large claims for his heavenly father but never mentions that his mother is or was a virgin, and is repeatedly very rude and coarse to her when she makes an appearance. (p. 116)
  • When the debris settled on Ground Zero, it was found that two pieces of mangled girder still stood in the shape of a cross, and much wondering comment resulted. Since all architecture has always involved crossbeams, it would be surprising only if such a feature did not emerge. I admit that I would have been impressed if the wreckage had formed itself into a Star of David or a star or crescent, but there is no record of this ever having occurred anywhere, even in places where local people might have been impressed by it. (pp. 149–150)
  • Jesus, it is true, shows no personal interest in gain, but he does speak of treasure in heaven and even of "mansions" as an inducement to follow him. Is it not further true that all religions down the ages have shown a keen interest in the amassment of material goods in the real world? (p. 158)
  • The Gospel story of the Garden of Gethsemane used to absorb me very much as a child, because its "break" in the action and its human whimper made me wonder if some of the fantastic scenario might after all be true. Jesus ask, in effect, "Do I have to go through with this?" It is an impressive and unforgetable question, and I long ago decided that I would cheerfully wager my own soul on the belief that the only right answer to it is "no." (p.211)
  • I shall again defer to a finer writer than myself and quote what H. L. Mencken irrefutably says in his Treatise on the Gods: "The simple fact is that the New Testament as we know it is a helter-skelter accumulation of more or less discordant documents, some of them probably of respectable origin but others palpably apocryphal, and that most of them, the good along with the bad, show unmistakable signs of being tampered with."
  • One recalls the governor of Texas who, asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that "if English was good enough for Jesus, then it is good enough for me." Rightly are the simple so called.
  • Maimonides described the punishment of the detestable Nazarene heretic as one of the greatest achievements of the Jewish elders, insisted that the name Jesus never be mentioned except when accompanied by a curse, and announced that his punishment was to be boiled in excrement for all eternity. What a good Catholic Maimonides would have made.

On the Catholic Church and AbuseEdit

  • The Vatican, and its vast network of dioceses, has in the past decade alone been forced to admit complicity in a huge racket of child rape and child torture, mainly but by no means exclusively homosexual, in which known pederasts and sadists were shielded from the law and reassigned to parishes where the pickings of the innocent and defenseless were often richer. In Ireland alone — once an unquestioning disciple of Holy Mother Church — it is now estimated that the unmolested children of religious schools were probably the minority. (p. 51)
  • The museums of medieval Europe, from Holland to Tuscany, are crammed with instruments and devices upon which the holy men labored devoutly, in order to see how long they could keep someone alive while being roasted. It is not needful to go into further details, but there were also religious books of instruction in this art, and guides for the detection of heresy by pain. (p. 219)
  • In the very recent past, we have seen the Church of Rome befouled by its complicity with the unpardonable sin of child rape, or, as it might be phrased in Latin form, "no child's behind left."
  • Billion of dollars have already been awarded, but there is no price to be put on the generations of boys and girls who were introduced to sex in the most alarming and disgusting ways by those whom they and their parents trusted. (pp. 227–228)

On HinduismEdit

  • Hindu child brides in India are flogged, and sometimes burned alive, if the pathetic dowry they bring is judged to be too small. (p. 51)

On GandhiEdit

  • Millions of people would have mindlessly starved to death if his advice had been followed. (p. 183)

On IslamEdit

  • The Shia fundamentalists in Iran lowered the age of "consent" to nine, perhaps in admiring emulation of the age of the youngest "wife" of the "Prophet" Muhammed. (p. 51)
  • Islam is at once the most and the least interesting of the world's monotheisms. It builds upon its primitive Jewish and Christian predecessors, selecting a chunk here and a shard there, and thus if these fall, it partly falls also. (p. 123)
  • Like many but not all of Islam’s principal sites, Mecca is closed to unbelievers, which somewhat contradicts its claim to universality. (p. 136)

On Hitler and StalinEdit

  • What is a totalitarian system if not one where the abject glorification of the perfect leader is matched by the surrender of all privacy and individuality, especially in matters sexual, and in denunciation and punishment — "for their own good" — of those who transgress?
  • It is interesting to find that people of faith now seek defensively to say that they are no worse than Nazis or Stalinists. (pp. 230)
  • Those who invoke "Secular" tyranny in contrast to religion are hoping that we will forget two things: the connection between the Christian churches and fascism, and the capitulation of the churches to National Socialism. (p. 242)

OthersEdit

  • The idea that a group of people — whether defined as a nation or as a religion — could be condemned for all time and without the possibility of an appeal was (and is) essentially a totalitarian one. (p. 250)
  • Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it. (p. 266)
  • Religion has run out of justifications. (p. 282)
  • All postures of submission and surrender should be part of our prehistory. (p. 285)

Mortality (2012)Edit

  • ...those who say I am being punished are saying that god can't think of anything more vengeful than cancer for a heavy smoker. (p. 88)
  • If I convert it's because it's better that a believer dies than that an atheist does. (p. 91)

On the Bosnian WarEdit

  • That war in the early 1990s changed a lot for me. I never thought I would see, in Europe, a full-dress reprise of internment camps, the mass murder of civilians, the reinstitution of torture and rape as acts of policy. And I didn't expect so many of my comrades to be indifferent – or even take the side of the fascists. It was a time when many people on the left were saying 'Don't intervene, we'll only make things worse' or, 'Don't intervene, it might destabilise the region. And I thought – destabilisation of fascist regimes is a good thing. Why should the left care about the stability of undemocratic regimes? Wasn't it a good thing to destabilise the regime of General Franco? It was a time when the left was mostly taking the conservative, status quo position – leave the Balkans alone, leave Milosevic alone, do nothing. And that kind of conservatism can easily mutate into actual support for the aggressors. Weimar-style conservatism can easily mutate into National Socialism. So you had people like Noam Chomsky's co-author Ed Herman go from saying 'Do nothing in the Balkans', to actually supporting Milosevic, the most reactionary force in the region. That's when I began to first find myself on the same side as the neocons. I was signing petitions in favour of action in Bosnia, and I would look down the list of names and I kept finding, there's Richard Perle. There's Paul Wolfowitz. That seemed interesting to me. These people were saying that we had to act. Before, I had avoided them like the plague, especially because of what they said about General Sharon and about Nicaragua. But nobody could say they were interested in oil in the Balkans, or in strategic needs, and the people who tried to say that – like Chomsky – looked ridiculous. So now I was interested.
  • ...the same mistake that disfigured the coverage of the Bosnian war, where every consumer of news was made to understand that there was fighting between Serbs, Croats, and "Muslims." There are two apples and one orange in that basket, as any fool should be able to see. Serbian and Croatian are national differences, which track very closely with the distinction between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic beliefs. Many Muslims are Bosnian, but not all Bosnians are Muslim. And in fact, the Bosnian forces in the late war were those which most repudiated any confessional definition.

On the Kosovo WarEdit

  • The "line of the day" among administration spokesmen, confronted by masses of destitute and terrified refugees and solid reports of the mass execution of civilians, is to say that "we expected this to happen." They did? (They never told anyone.) If they want to avoid being indicted for war crimes themselves, these "spokesmen" had better promise us that they were lying when they said that.

On the U.S. invasion of AfghanistanEdit

  • Their [antiwar movement] mantra was: "Afghanistan, where the world's richest country rains bombs on the world's poorest country." Poor fools. They should never have tried to beat me at this game. What about, "Afghanistan, where the world's most open society confronts the world's most closed one"? "Where American women pilots kill the men who enslave women." "Where the world's most indiscriminate bombers are bombed by the world's most accurate ones." "Where the largest number of poor people applaud the bombing of their own regime." I could go on. (I think No. 4 may need a little work.) But there are some suggested contrasts for the "doves" to paste into their scrapbook. Incidentally, when they look at their scrapbooks they will be able to reread themselves saying things like, "The bombing of Kosovo is driving the Serbs into the arms of Milosevic."
  • No possible future government in Kabul can be worse than the Taliban, and no thinkable future government would allow the level of Al Qaeda gangsterism to recur. So the outcome is proportionate and congruent with international principles of self-defense.
  • Many of the points made by the antiwar movement have been consciously assimilated by the Pentagon and its lawyers and advisers. Precision weaponry is good in itself, but its ability to discriminate is improving and will continue to improve. Cluster bombs are perhaps not good in themselves, but when they are dropped on identifiable concentrations of Taliban troops, they do have a heartening effect.
  • Only a complete moral idiot can believe for an instant that we are fighting against the wretched of the earth. We are fighting, as I said before, against the scum of the earth
  • I don't think the war in Afghanistan was ruthlessly enough waged.
  • If you're actually certain that you're hitting only a concentration of enemy troops... then it's pretty good because those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. And if they're bearing a Koran over their heart, it'll go straight through that, too. So they won't be able to say, 'Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.' No way, 'cause it'll go straight through that as well. They'll be dead, in other words.
  • Did we not aid the grisly Taliban to achieve and hold power? Yes indeed 'we' did. Well, does that not double or triple our responsibility to remove them from power?
    • Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays (Nation Books, 2004)

On the 2003 invasion of IraqEdit

  • It must be obvious to anyone who can think at all that the charges against the Hussein regime are, as concerns arsenals of genocidal weaponry, true.
  • I doubt that even if this evidence could be upgraded to 100 per cent it would persuade the sort of people who go on self-appointed missions of mediation to Baghdad. These people further fail to see that governments now have a further responsibility to their citizens — namely to see that something is done to prevent future assaults on civilisation.
  • Taking the points in order, it's fairly easy to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy's bad guy. He's not just bad in himself but the cause of badness in others. While he survives not only are the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples compelled to live in misery and fear (the sheerly moral case for regime-change is unimpeachable on its own), but their neighbors are compelled to live in fear as well.

    However—and here is the clinching and obvious point—Saddam Hussein is not going to survive. His regime is on the verge of implosion. It has long passed the point of diminishing returns. Like the Ceausescu edifice in Romania, it is a pyramid balanced on its apex (its powerbase a minority of the Sunni minority), and when it falls, all the consequences of a post-Saddam Iraq will be with us anyway. To suggest that these consequences—Sunni-Shi'a rivalry, conflict over the boundaries of Kurdistan, possible meddling from Turkey or Iran, vertiginous fluctuations in oil prices and production, social chaos—are attributable only to intervention is to be completely blind to the impending reality. The choices are two and only two—to experience these consequences with an American or international presence or to watch them unfold as if they were none of our business.

  • We know that the enemies of our civilization and of Arab-Muslim civilization have emerged from what is actually a root cause. The root cause is the political slum of client states from Saudi Arabia through Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere, that has been allowed to dominate the region under U.S. patronage, and uses people and resources as if they were a gas station with a few flyblown attendants. To the extent that this policy, this mentality, has now changed in the administration, to the extent that their review of that is sincere and the conclusions that they draw from it are sincere, I think that should be welcomed. It's a big improvement to be intervening in Iraq against Saddam Hussein instead of in his favor. I think it makes a nice change. It's a regime change for us too. Now I'll state what I think is gonna happen. I've been in London and Washington a lot lately and all I can tell you is that the spokesmen for Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush walk around with a look of extraordinary confidence on their faces, as if they know something that when disclosed, will dissolve the doubts, the informational doubts at any rate, of people who wonder if there is enough evidence. [Mark Danner: It's amazing they've been able to keep it to themselves for so long.] I simply say, I have two reasons for confidence. I know perfectly well that there are many people who would not be persuaded by this evidence even if it was dumped on their own doorstep, because the same people, many of the same people, didn't believe that it was worth fighting in Afghanistan even though the connection between the Taliban and Al Qaeda was as clear as could possibly be. So I know that. There's a strong faction of the so-called peace movement that is immune to evidence and also incapable of self criticism, of imagining what these countries would be like if the advice of the peaceniks has been followed. I also made some inquiries of my own, and I think I know what some of these disclosures will be. But, as a matter of fact I think we know enough. And what will happen will be this: The President will give an order, there will then occur in Iraq a show of military force like nothing probably the world has ever seen. It will be rapid and accurate and overwhelming enough to deal with an army or a country many times the size of Iraq, even if that country possessed what Iraq does not, armed forces in the command structure willing to obey and be the last to die for the supreme leader. And that will be greeted by the majority of Iraqi people and Kurdish people as a moment of emancipation, which will be a pleasure to see, and then the hard work of the reconstitution of Iraqi society and the repayment of our debt — some part of our debt to them — can begin. And I say, bring it on.
  • The best case scenario is a rapid attack by precision-guided weapons, striking Saddam's communications in the first hours and preventing his deranged orders from being obeyed. Then a massive landing will bring food, medicine and laptop computers to a surging crowd of thankful and relieved Iraqis and Kurds. This could, in theory, all happen.
  • I, for one, will not have [the Vietcong] insulted by any comparison to the forces of Zarqawi, the Fedayeen Saddam, and the criminal underworld now arrayed against us. These depraved elements are the Iraqi Khmer Rouge.
  • Those who had alleged that a million civilians were dying from sanctions were willing, nay eager, to keep those same murderous sanctions if it meant preserving Saddam!
  • If you examine the record of the so-called the anti-war movement in this country and imagine what would have happened had its counsel been listened to over the last 15 and more years, you would have a world in which the following would be the case:

    Saddam Hussein would be the owner and occupier of Kuwait, he would have succeeded in the annexation, not merely the invasion, but the abolition of an Arab and Muslim state that was a member of the Arab League and of the United Nations. And with these resources as we now know because he lost that war, he was attempting to equip himself with the most terrifying arsenal that it was possible for him to lay his hands on. That's one consequence of anti-war politics, that's what would have happened.

    In the meanwhile, Slobodan Milošević would have made Bosnia part of a greater Serbia, and Kosovo would have been ethnically cleansed and also annexed. The Taliban would be still in power in Afghanistan if the anti-war movement had been listened to, and al-Qaeda would still be their guests. And Saddam Hussein, with his crime family, would still be privately holding ownership over a terrorized people in a state that's been most aptly described as a concentration camp above ground and a mass grave underneath it.

    Now if I had that record politically, I would be extremely modest, I wouldn't be demanding explanations from those of us who said it's about time that we stop this continual capitulation to dictatorship, to racism, to aggression and to totalitarian ideology. That we will not allow to be appeased in Iraq, the failures in Rwanda, and in Bosnia, and in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And we take pride in having taken that position, and we take pride in our Iraqi and Kurdish friends who are conducting this struggle, on our behalves I should say.

  • I’m quite convinced in my own mind that those who were arguing that [the need to intervene in Iraq] was a more immediate one than some believed - were I’m sure convinced that they were right on fact, I don’t think they were making it up. So as to lying, I don’t think it has been established that any lies were told.
  • I don't think that the figure 2000 is an important milestone, in the first place. And in the second place, I don't think that this can be determined by public opinion. The righteousness of the war was not demonstrated by public support for it in the beginning, nor its wisdom altered by the evident decline in public support for it. I don't pay attention to the opinion polls, or indeed to the casualty figures, because I know that this is an inevitable war, a war that was going to have to happen — and was, in my opinion, both just and necessary.
  • Interviewer: It seems to be acknowledged that there're more people out there supporting the aims of Al-Qaeda and groups like them, and are willing to die, as a result of this war, than perhaps there were previously?

    Hitchens: Well, you could as easily say that the number of people who used to be based in Afghanistan, have, as a result of the intervention there, relocated themselves and spread the virus in that way. Both of these arguments lead to only one terminus, which is: we should surrender to jihadism, and not try to oppose it, in case we make them upset.

  • They want me to immolate myself, and I sincerely believe that for some of them, when they see bad news from Iraq, the reaction is simply 'This will make Hitchens look bad!' I've been trying to avoid solipsism, but I've come to believe there are such people.
    • "He Knew He Was Right," profile by Ian Parker, The New Yorker (2006-10-16)

On the 2011 Libyan civil warEdit

  • Our common speech contains numberless verbs with which to describe the infliction of violence or cruelty or brutality on others. It only really contains one common verb that describes the effect of violence or cruelty or brutality on those who, rather than suffering from it, inflict it. That verb is the verb to brutalize. A slaveholder visits servitude on his slaves, lashes them, degrades them, exploits them, and maltreats them. In the process, he himself becomes brutalized. This is a simple distinction to understand and an easy one to observe. In the recent past, idle usage has threatened to erode it. Last week was an especially bad one for those who think the difference worth preserving...Col. Muammar Qaddafi's conduct [killing his protesters] is far worse than merely brutal—it is homicidal and sadistic...and even if a headline can't convey all that, it can at least try to capture some of it. Observe, then, what happens when the term is misapplied. The error first robs the language of a useful expression and then ends up by gravely understating the revolting reality it seeks to describe...Far from being brutalized by four decades of domination by a theatrical madman, the Libyan people appear fairly determined not to sink to his level and to be done with him and his horrible kin. They also seem, at the time of writing, to want this achievement to represent their own unaided effort. Admirable as this is, it doesn't excuse us from responsibility. The wealth that Qaddafi is squandering is the by-product of decades of collusion with foreign contractors. The weapons that he is employing against civilians were not made in Libya; they were sold to him by sophisticated nations.
  • Doing nothing is not the absence of a policy; it is, in fact, the adoption of one. "Neutrality" favors the side with the biggest arsenal. "Nonintervention" is a form of interference. If you will the end—and President Barack Obama has finally said that Qaddafi should indeed go—then to that extent you will the means...The immediate task is therefore to limit the amount of damage Qaddafi can do and sharply minimize the number of people he can murder. Whatever the character of the successor system turns out to be, it can hardly be worsened if we show it positive signs of friendship and solidarity...I am sure I am not alone in feeling rather queasy about being forced to watch the fires in Tripoli and Benghazi as if I were an impotent spectator. Indifference of this kind to the lives of others can have a coarsening effect. It can lower one's threshold of sympathy. If protracted unduly, it might even become brutalizing.
  • The stand of the "realist" school, and its objections to further or faster involvement in the Libya crisis, can be fairly summarized...The actual evidence, however, is that Qaddafi senior has reached his Ceausescu moment: a full-dress (in the literal sense) meltdown into paranoia, megalomania, and delusion. His recent speeches and appearances have shown him stinking with madness and hysteria. His age and condition, at any rate, set a very sharp limit to the duration of his regime. If that regime implodes while he is still "in place," then all the grim consequences foreseen by the realists will be incurred in any case. Weapons will get into the wrong hands; divide-and-rule tactics (already a stock in trade) will intensify; religious and tribal passions will be deliberately inflamed. The main difference will be that we merely watched this happen.
  • It might bear remembering that when, in 1989, Ceausescu did try to go to war with his own population, Secretary of State James Baker made the unprecedented public statement that the United States would not object to a Russian intervention to spare further chaos and misery in Romania. Are the Russians and the Chinese so wedded to the legal niceties, or so proud of their association with Qaddafi, that they would repudiate a speech from President Barack Obama in which he asked for reciprocation? We cannot know this if such a speech is never made or even contemplated...There are a number of other low-cost tactics that could affect the odds, such as jamming Qaddafi's airwaves. But what principally strikes the eye is not the absence of resources—or, indeed, options—but the absence of preparedness...If the other side in this argument is correct, or even to the extent that it is correct, then we are being warned that a maimed and traumatized Libya is in our future, no matter what. That being the case, a piecemeal and improvised policy is the least pragmatic one. Even if Qaddafi temporarily turns the tide, as seems thinkable, and covers us all with shame for doing so, we will still have it all to do again. Let us at least hope that certain excuses will not be available next time.

On religionEdit

  • Mockery of religion is one of the most essential things... one of the beginnings of human emancipation is the ability to laugh at authority.
    • BBC Newsnight Special: Christopher Hitchens, 29 November 2010 [7]
  • If you want to avoid upsetting these people (Muslim fundamentalists) you have to let Indonesia commit genocide in East Timor, otherwise they'll be upset with you. You'll have made an enemy. If you tell them they can't throw acid in the faces of unveiled women in Karachi they will be annoyed with you. If you say we insist, we think that cartoonists in Copenhagen can print satire on the Prophet Muhammed you've just made an enemy. You've brought it on. You're encouraging it to happen. So unless you're willing to commit suicide for yourself and for this culture, get used to the compromises you'll have to make and the eventual capitulation that will come to you, but bloody well don't do that in my name...
    • Speech at Freedom From Religion Foundation on 12 October 2007
  • Atheists have always argued that this world is all that we have, and that our duty is to one another to make the very most and best of it.
    • The Portable Atheist, page xvi
  • Religion ends and philosophy begins, just as alchemy ends and chemistry begins and astrology ends, and astronomy begins.
    • Interview with Lou Dobbs [8]
  • And not scorning the three delightful children who result — who are everything to me and who are my only chance of even a glimpse of a second life, let alone an immortal one, and I’ll tell you something: if I was told to sacrifice them to prove my devotion to God, if I was told to do what all monotheists are told to do and admire the man who said, “Yes, I’ll gut my kid to show my love of God,” I’d say, “No. Fuck you."
  • Religious exhortation and telling people, telling children, that if they don’t do the right thing, they’ll go to terrifying punishments or unbelievable rewards, that’s making a living out of lying to children. That’s what the priesthood do. And if all they did was lie to the children, it would be bad enough. But they rape them and torture them and then hope we’ll call it ‘abuse’. [10]
  • People are frightened of death, and the central lie of all religion is that there’s a cure for this and an exception we’ve made in your own case: an eternal life offered if you make the right propitiations and the right abjections. Well, I’m sorry. I think that it's the height of immorality to lie to people like that. That’s why [religion] survives.” [11]
  • [Religious belief] is a totalitarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep, who can subject you - who must, indeed, subject you - to total surveillance around the clock every waking and sleeping minute of your life - I say, of your life - before you're born and, even worse and where the real fun begins, after you're dead. A celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I've been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president, Kim Jong-Il is only head of the party and head of the army. He's not head of the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-Sung. It's a necrocracy, a thanatocracy. It's one short of a trinity I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can fucking die and leave North Korea! [12]
  • Do I, who've read Freud, know what the Future of an Illusion really is and know that religious belief is ineradicable as long as we remain a stupid, poorly-evolved mammalian species, think that some Canadian law is gonna solve this problem? Please. No, our problem is this: our pre-frontal lobes are too small, and our adrenalin glands are too big, and our thumb-finger opposition isn't all that it might be, and we're afraid of the dark, and we're afraid to die, and we believe in the truths of holy books that are so stupid and so fabricated that a child can - and all children do, as you can tell by their questions - actually see through them. And I think it should be (religion) treated with ridicule and hatred and contempt. And I claim that right. [13]
    • "Be It Resolved: Freedom of Speech Includes the Freedom to Hate", 15/11/2006
  • The metaphor of the watch was very much used by the deists. And of course, watches run down, and break down, and it was believed by many of them that if an intelligence had begun the universe, begun the process, he'd took no further interest in it - didn't intervene in human affairs, didn't mind who won the war, didn't mind which country was the leading one, watched with relative—well, or didn't watch—with indifference, plague, famine, war and so forth. That's a very hard position to oppose, by the way. It's impossible, actually, to disprove - one can only the evidence for it isn't quite strong enough to be persuasive. To be a theist, to be a member of a monotheistic religion, that believes that truth has been revealed, that god has intervened in human affairs, that he has a plan for us - each of as individually and as a species, and that it shows - is a very much more difficult undertaking. I'm gonna show why I think it's more or less impossible.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. William Dembski, 18/11/2010 [14]
  • What preoccupies most scientists now is not how much they know compared to 50 years ago, though that is enormous as a difference, but how little they know compared to what they're finding out [...] For a few milliseconds really of cosmic time our species has lived on one very very small rock, in a very small solar system that's a part of a fantastically unimportant suburb, in one of an uncountable number of galaxies [...] Every single second since the big bang a star the size of our sun has blown up, gone to nothing [...] And indeed physicists now exist who can tell you the date on which our sun will follow suit [...] We know when it's [the world] coming to an end and we know how it will be, but we know something even more extraordinary which is the rate of expansion of this explosion we're looming through is actually speeding up. Our universe is flying apart further and faster than we thought it was [...] Everyone who studies it professionally finds it impossible to reconcile this extraordinarily destructive, chaotic, self-destructive process, to find in it the finger of god, to find in that the idea of a design. And it's not just because we know so little about it, it's because what we know about it that's essential doesn't seem as if it's the intended result brought about by a divine-benign creator who loves every single one of us living as we do on this tiny rock in this negligible suburb of the cosmos.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. William Dembski, 18/11/2010 [15]
  • It's a big mistake to think that your own cause, or your own country, or your own side has God in its corner. For one thing, it commits the sin of pride.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. William Dembski, 18/11/2010 [16]
  • I don't think it's healthy for people to want there to be a permanent, unalterable, irremovable authority over them. I don't like the idea of a father who never goes away, the idea of a king who cannot be deposed, the idea of a judge who doesn't allow a lawyer or a jury or an appeal. This is an appeal to absolutism. It's the part of ourselves that's not so nice; that wants security, that wants certainty, that wants to be taken care of. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the human struggle for freedom was against the worst kind of dictatorship of all: the theocracy, the one that claims it has God on its side. I believe that totalitarian temptation has to be resisted. What I'm inviting you to do is to consider emancipating yourselves from the idea that you, selfishly, are the sole object of all the wonders of the cosmos and of nature - because that's not a humble idea at all, it's a very arrogant one and there's no evidence for it. And then, again, the second emancipation - to think of yourselves as free citizens who are not enthralled to any supernatural-eternal authority; which you will always find is interpreted for you by other mammals who claim to have access to this authority - that gives them special power over you. Don't allow yourselves to have your lives run like that.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. William Dembski, 18/11/2010 [17]
  • When Socrates was sentenced to death, for his philosophical investigations and his blasphemy for challenging the Gods of the city and he accepted his death. He did say "well, if we're lucky perhaps I'll be able to hold a conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters too", in other words that the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble and what is pure and what is true can always go on. Why is that important, why would I like to do that? Because that is the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don't know, but I do know that it is the conversation I want to have while I am still alive. Which means that for me, the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can't give way, is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don't know anything like enough yet. That I haven't understood enough, that I can't know enough, that I'm always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn't have it any other way. And I urge you to look at those of you that tell you (at your age) that that you are dead until you believe as they do. (What a terrible thing to be telling to children.) And that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority. Don't think of that as a gift, think of it as a poison chalice. Push it aside no matter how tempting it is. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way.
  • Religion is not provided to us by revelation, it doesn't come from the heavens, it doesn't come from the beyond, it doesn't come from the divine. It's man-made. And it shows. It shows very well - that religion is created, invented, imposed by a species half a chromosome away from the chimpanzee. [18]
  • It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told, not just that the party's over, but slightly worse: the party's going on — but you have to leave. And it's going on without you. That's the reflection that I think most upsets people about their demise. All right, then, because it might make us feel better, let's pretend the opposite. Instead, you'll get tapped on the shoulder and told, Great news: this party's going on forever – and you can't leave. You've got to stay; the boss says so. And he also insists that you have a good time. [19]
  • There is no Big Brother in the sky. It is a horrible idea that there is somebody who owns us, who makes us, who supervises us waking and sleeping, who knows our thoughts, who can convict us of thought crime, thought crime - just for what we think, who can judge us while we sleep for things that might occur to us in our dreams, who can create us sick (as apparently we are) and then order us on pain of eternal torture to be well again. To demand this, to wish this to be true, is to wish to live as an abject slave. It is a wonderful thing, in my submission, that we now have enough information, enough intelligence, and - I hope - enough intellectual and moral courage to say that this ghastly proposition is founded on a lie, and to celebrate that fact, and I invite you to join me in doing so. [20]
  • We can be as sure as we could probably need be that neither this enormous explosion that set the universe in motion, which is still moving away from us at a great rate, nor this amazingly complex billion year period of evolution, we can be pretty certain it was not designed so that you and I could be meeting in this room. We are not the objects of either of these plans. These plans don’t know we’re here. I’m sorry to say, wouldn’t know or care if we stopped being here. We have to face this alone with the equipment, intellectual and moral, that we’ve been given, or that we've acquired, or that is innate to us.
    • Authors@Google, August 16, 2007, YouTube
  • It is said that Louis Farrakhan’s racist crackpot Nation of Islam and its sectarian gang gets young men off drugs. For all I know it does, it may, but that does not recommend it, to me, nor does it prove anything of its theology. Whereas I can tell you that of the suicide bombing population one hundred percent is faith-based. And I don’t think that in itself disapproves faith, but I think it should make you skeptical of that kind of random sampling. Of the genital mutilation community the same can be said.
    • Authors@Google, August 16, 2007, YouTube
It is said that Louis Farrakhan’s racist crackpot Nation of Islam and its sectarian gang gets young men off drugs. For all I know it does, it may, but that does not recommend it, to me, nor does it prove anything of its theology.
  • On our integrity, our basic integrity, knowing right from wrong and being able to choose a right action over a wrong one, I think one must repudiate the claim that one doesn't have this moral discrimination innately, that, no, it must come only from the agency of a celestial dictatorship which one must love and simultaneously fear. What is it like to lie to children and tell them that they have an authority, that they must love and be terrified of it at the same time. What's that like? I want to know. And that we don't have an innate sense of right and wrong, children don't have an innate sense of fairness and decency, which of course they do. What is it like?”
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. Alister McGrath, 11/10/2007 [21]
  • Yes, Dr. McGrath, you're right, there is something about us as a species that is problematic, it isn't just explained by religion. Something about us that tempts us to do wrong. It's pretty easily explained, I think. We are primates, high primates, but primates. We're half a chromosome away from chimpanzees and it shows. It especially shows in the number of religions we invent to console ourselves or to give us things to quarrel with other primates about. If anything demonstrates that God is man-made, not man God-made, surely it is the religions erected by this quasi-chimpanzee species and the harm that they're willing to inflict on that basis.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. Alister McGrath, 11/10/2007 [22]
  • The gods that we've made are exactly the gods you'd expect to be made by a species that's about half a chromosome away from being chimpanzee.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. Barry Brummett, 04/06/2011 [23]
  • There's no such word, though there should be, as "adeism" or as being an "adeist", but if there was one I would say that's what I was. I don't believe that we are here as the result of a design or that by following the appropriate rituals we can overcome death. If there was such a force, if there was an entity that was responsible for the beginning of the cosmos, and that also happened to be busily engineering the very laborious production of life on our little planet, it still wouldn't prove that this entity cared about us; answered prayers; cared what church we went to, or whether we went to one at all; cared who we had sex with or in what position or by what means; cared what we ate or on what day; cared whether we lived or died. There's no reason at all why this entity isn't completely indifferent to us. You cannot get from deism to theism - except by a series of extraordinarily generous (to yourself) assumptions. The deist has all his work still ahead of him to show that it leads to revelation; to redemption; to salvation; or to suspensions of the natural order.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. William Lane Craig, 04/04/2009 [24]
  • Religion is the outcome of unresolved contradictions in the material world. If you make the assumption that it's man-made then very few things are mysterious to you: It would be obvious to you why there are so many religions; You will understand why it is that religion has been such a disappointment to our species - that despite innumerable revivals, innumerable attempts again to preach the truth, innumerable attempts to convert the heathen, innumerable attempts to send missionaries all around the world - that the same problems remain with us. That nothing is resolved by this. If all religions died out, or were admitted to be false, all of our problems would be exactly what they are now: How do we live with one another? Where, indeed, do morals and ethics come from? What are our duties to one another? How shall we build the just city? How shall we practice love? All these questions would remain exactly the same. Emancipate yourself from the idea of a celestial dictatorship and you've taken the first step to becoming free.
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. William Lane Craig, 04/04/2009 [25]
  • A double problem arises: There is first the difficulty of, if not the impossibility of demonstrating the existence of any creator or designer at all. I think I say something uncontroversial when I say that no theologian has ever conclusively demonstrated that such a designer can or does or ever has existed. The most you can do, by way of the argument from design, is to infer him or her or it from an apparent harmony in the arrangements - and this was at a time when that was the very best that, so to speak, could be done. But religion goes a little further than this already rather impossible task, and expects us to believe as follows: that the speaker not only can prove the existence of a said entity, but can claim to know this entity's mind - in fact, can claim to know it quite intimately; can claim to know his or her personal wishes; can, in turn, tell you what you may do, in his name - a quite large arrogation of power, you will suddenly notice, is being granted to the speaker here. The speaker can tell you that he knows - he cannot tell you how - but he can tell you that he knows, for example, that heaven hates ham, that god doesn't want you to eat pork products; he can tell you that god has a very very strong view about with whom you may have sexual relations, indeed, how you may have sexual relations with others; he can indicate, perhaps a little less convincingly but no less firmly, that there are certain books or courses of study that you might want to avoid or treat with great suspicion.”
    • Christopher Hitchens vs. Marvin Olasky, 14/05/2007 [26]
  • Some people say that without God, people would give themselves permission to do anything. [Yet] only with God, only with the view that God’s on your side, can people give themselves permission to do things that otherwise would be called satanic.
    • Freedom From Religion Foundation, 21/10/2007 [27]
  • "There is not a single world religion which doesn't hold women in contempt. Even Buddha was apparently born from a slit in his mother's side, anything but the filth and disgust of having to contemplate the female reproductive system. Yet again, anything but the vagina. Disgust for females, contempt for females, revulsion from menstrual blood and the female reproductive system. What could be more obviously man made than this, and made in a barbaric period even in the history of the male sex?" [28]

On the LeftEdit

  • One of the many problems with the American left, and indeed of the American left, has been its image and self-image as something rather too solemn, mirthless, herbivorous, dull, monochrome, righteous, and boring. How many times, in my old days at The Nation magazine, did I hear wistful and semienvious ruminations? Where was the radical Firing Line show? Who will be our Rush Limbaugh? I used privately to hope that the emphasis, if the comrades ever got around to it, would be on the first of those and not the second. But the meetings themselves were so mind-numbing and lugubrious that I thought the danger of success on either front was infinitely slight.
  • There is a widespread view that the war against jihadism and totalitarianism involves only differences of emphasis. In other words, one might object to the intervention in Iraq on the grounds that it drew resources away from Afghanistan - you know the argument. It's important to understand that this apparent agreement does not cover or include everybody. A very large element of the Left and of the isolationist Right is openly sympathetic to the other side in this war, and wants it to win. This was made very plain by the leadership of the "anti-war" movement, and also by Michael Moore when he shamefully compared the Iraqi fascist "insurgency" to the American Founding Fathers. To many of these people, any "anti-globalization" movement is better than none. With the Right-wingers it's easier to diagnose: they are still Lindberghians in essence and they think war is a Jewish-sponsored racket. With the Left, which is supposed to care about secularism and humanism, it's a bit harder to explain an alliance with woman-stoning, gay-burning, Jew-hating medieval theocrats. However, it can be done, once you assume that American imperialism is the main enemy. Even for those who won't go quite that far, the admission that the US Marine Corps might be doing the right thing is a little further than they are prepared to go - because what would then be left of their opposition credentials, which are so dear to them?
  • The crucial thing for most of the left now, is what goes under the name of "anti-globalization". A sort of primitive, I would say non-Marxist form of anti-capitalism. If that is your main concern then by definition the United States is the main enemy. Which with only a little displacement means that any enemy of the United States is at least a potential friend. I have certainly read articles and heard speeches from quite prominent leftists that give the strong impression that jihadism may have it's drawbacks but it is better than no "anti-globalization" at all.
  • But Portugal had broken the mainspring for me, because it had caused me to understand that I thought democracy and pluralism were good things in themselves, and ends in themselves at that, rather than means to another end.
    • Hitch 22, p.186

Noam ChomskyEdit

  • Chomsky proceeds on the almost unthinkably subversive assumption that the United States should be judged by the same standards that it preaches (often at gunpoint) to other nations— he is nearly the only person now writing who assumes a single standard of international morality not for rhetorical effect, but as a matter of habitual, practically instinctual conviction. --Christopher Hitchens, For the Sake of Argument ("The 'We' Fallacy"), February 1988
  • It’s a very vulgar, arithmetical, pragmatic way of arguing anyway. If you do that, then get the facts and figures wrong, well then you’re really fucked. You’re fucked twice. --Christopher Hitchens, May 2002 [29]
  • My quarrel with Chomsky goes back to the Balkan wars of the 1990s, where he more or less openly represented the "Serbian Socialist Party" (actually the national-socialist and expansionist dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic) as the victim. Many of us are proud of having helped organize to prevent the slaughter and deportation of Europe's oldest and largest and most tolerant Muslim minority, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo. But at that time, when they were real, Chomsky wasn't apparently interested in Muslim grievances. He only became a voice for that when the Taliban and Al Qaeda needed to be represented in their turn as the victims of a "silent genocide" in Afghanistan. Let me put it like this, if a supposed scholar takes the Christian-Orthodox side when it is the aggressor, and then switches to taking the "Muslim" side when Muslims commit mass murder, I think that there is something very nasty going on. And yes, I don't think it is exaggerated to describe that nastiness as "anti-American" when the power that stops and punishes both aggressions is the United States ... In some awful way, his regard for the underdog has mutated into support for mad dogs. This is not at all like watching the implosion of an obvious huckster and jerk like Michael Moore, who would have made a perfectly good Brownshirt populist. The collapse of Chomsky feels to me more like tragedy.
  • He [Chomsky] has now been impeached by his own standards, since scrutiny of the evidence does not bear him out on Serbia or Afghanistan or Iraq. It didn't bear him out on Cambodia either, though he was never a "Holocaust denier" or anything like it. And he has, I think, ceased to be of any use to young people who might pardonably doubt the official story. The position he took, comparing the attack on the World Trade Center to an admittedly criminal Clintonian strike on Sudan (and virtually concluding that the latter was worse!) showed the absolute exhaustion of the glib "double standards" school, as I point out extensively in Love, Poverty and War. But his decline and fall is a loss, and you miss the point by denying it.
  • Anybody visiting the Middle East in the last decade has had the experience: meeting the hoarse and aggressive person who first denies that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center and then proceeds to describe the attack as a justified vengeance for decades of American imperialism...professor Noam Chomsky decides to leave that central question open. We have no more reason to credit Osama Bin Laden's claim of responsibility, he states, than we would have to believe Chomsky's own claim to have won the Boston Marathon...Nothing serious," as Chomsky puts it, "has been provided since."...So is one to assume that he [Chomsky] has pored through the completed findings of the 9/11 Commission? Viewed any of the videos in which the 9/11 hijackers are seen in the company of Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri? Read the transcripts of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker"? Followed the journalistic investigations of Lawrence Wright, Peter Bergen, or John Burns, to name only some of the more salient? Acquainted himself with the proceedings of associated and ancillary investigations into the bombing of the USS Cole or indeed the first attempt to bring down the Twin Towers in the 1990s?
  • It's no criticism of Chomsky to say that his analysis is inconsistent with that of other individuals and factions who essentially think that 9/11 was a hoax. However, it is remarkable that he should write as if the mass of evidence against Bin Laden has never been presented or could not have been brought before a court. This form of 9/11 denial doesn't trouble to conceal an unstated but self-evident premise, which is that the United States richly deserved the assault on its citizens and its civil society. After all, as Chomsky phrases it so tellingly, our habit of "naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk … [is] as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes 'Jew' and 'Gypsy.' "...In short, we do not know who organized the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or any other related assaults, though it would be a credulous fool who swallowed the (unsupported) word of Osama Bin Laden that his group was the one responsible. An attempt to kidnap or murder an ex-president of the United States (and presumably, by extension, the sitting one) would be as legally justified as the hit on Abbottabad. And America is an incarnation of the Third Reich that doesn't even conceal its genocidal methods and aspirations. This is the sum total of what has been learned, by the guru of the left, in the last decade.

Michael MooreEdit

  • Europeans think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they've taken as their own, as their representative American, someone (Michael Moore) who actually embodies all of those qualities.
  • To describe this film [Fahrenheit 9/11] as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
  • We are introduced to Iraq, "a sovereign nation"...In this peaceable kingdom, according to Moore's flabbergasting choice of film shots, children are flying little kites, shoppers are smiling in the sunshine, and the gentle rhythms of life are undisturbed. Then—wham! From the night sky come the terror weapons of American imperialism. Watching the clips Moore uses, and recalling them well, I can recognize various Saddam palaces and military and police centers getting the treatment. But these sites are not identified as such. In fact, I don't think Al Jazeera would, on a bad day, have transmitted anything so utterly propagandistic. You would also be led to think that the term "civilian casualty" had not even been in the Iraqi vocabulary until March 2003...the "insurgent" side is presented in this film as justifiably outraged, whereas the 30-year record of Baathist war crimes and repression and aggression is not mentioned once.

    That this—his pro-American moment—was the worst Moore could possibly say of Saddam's depravity is further suggested by some astonishing falsifications. Moore asserts that Iraq under Saddam had never attacked or killed or even threatened (his words) any American. I never quite know whether Moore is as ignorant as he looks, or even if that would be humanly possible...Baghdad was the safe house for the man whose "operation" murdered Leon Klinghoffer...In 1991, a large number of Western hostages were taken by the hideous Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and held in terrible conditions for a long time. After that same invasion was repelled—Saddam having killed quite a few Americans and Egyptians and Syrians and Brits in the meantime and having threatened to kill many more—the Iraqi secret police were caught trying to murder former President Bush during his visit to Kuwait. Never mind whether his son should take that personally...Iraqi forces fired, every day, for 10 years, on the aircraft that patrolled the no-fly zones and staved off further genocide in the north and south of the country...And it was after, and not before, the 9/11 attacks that Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi moved from Afghanistan to Baghdad and began to plan his now very open and lethal design for a holy and ethnic civil war.

  • Yet Moore is a silly and shady man who does not recognize courage of any sort even when he sees it because he cannot summon it in himself. To him, easy applause, in front of credulous audiences, is everything ... If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture.
  • It‘s [Fahrenheit 9/11] the work of a moral cretin and a political idiot. And it's up to the Democratic National Committee to say, do they want to continue being photographed with this man as we go into a very important election, not just in the United States, I might add, but first Democratic elections to be held in Iraq and in Afghanistan? In a few months, we will know the outcome of all these. In all three cases, Michael Moore says that the enemy is George Bush and Saddam Hussein and Mr. Zarqawi and Mr. Bin Laden are no problem. Indeed, they are—what a wonderful way to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend, by the way. Indeed, they are the Minutemen. They‘re the staunch American revolutionaries. Does he tell this to the widows that he goes and exploits?
  • I have noticed in observing and debating him [Moore] that he is an addict of crowd-pleasing and demagogy, and also an addict of "secret financial government" rhetoric. He also affects a certain plebeian and blue-collar style. When he thinks it will work, he will pretend to believe that "American jobs" are migrating to Mexico, or that "American boys" are being duped into war by hidden cabals. This combination of nativism and populism (stirred in with a nauseating dose of sentimentality and an absolutely breath-taking contempt for objective truth) reminds me very much of the dolts who joined the SA. But then, those guys were probably as surprised as their dumb Stalinist counterparts when the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed. By the way, that was the only treaty he signed that Stalin didn't break. With much of the remaining Left, I have to say, there is a certain immunity from Moore's gruesome posturing, if only because they don't think it was a good idea to have General Motors, or the city of Flint, Michigan, in the first place. And some of them are genuine pacifists, while Moore is an open supporter of the Islamist death-squads in Iraq.

ComparisonsEdit

IraqEdit

  • Only the force of American arms, or the extremely credible threat of that force, can bring a fresh face to power. [30]
  • [Even if the U.S. doesn't attack] Saddam Hussein is not going to survive. His regime is on the verge of implosion. [31]
  • It was not for the sake of oil that the risky decision to cease this corrupt coexistence was made. But at least now the Iraqi people have a chance of controlling their own main resource, and it will be our task to ensure that the funding and revenue are transparent instead of opaque. [32]
  • The regular media caricature of Iraqi society is not even a parody. It is very common indeed to find mixed and intermarried families, and these loyalties and allegiances outweigh anything that can be mustered by a Jordanian jailbird who has bet everything on trying to ignite a sectarian war. Second, it means in the not very long run that the so-called insurgency can be politically isolated and militarily defeated. It already operates within a minority of a minority and is largely directed by unpopular outsiders.
  • If there is a sectarian war in Iraq today, or perhaps several sectarian wars, we have to understand that this was latent in the country, and in the state, and in the society all along. It was not the only possible outcome, because it had to be willed and organized, but it was certainly high on the list of probabilities.

Noam Chomsky/CambodiaEdit

  • Here is the story, as far as I can trace it, of Chomsky's effort to "minimize" or "deny" the harvest of the Khmer Rouge. It will be seen that the phony "credibility" of the charge against him derives from his lack of gullibility about the American mass killings in Indochina (routinely euphemized or concealed by large sections of the domestic intelligentsia). From this arises the idea that Chomsky might have said such things; was the sort of person who could decline to criticize "the other side"; was a well-known political extremist. Couple this with the slothful ease of the accusation, the reluctance of certain authors to prove they are not unpatriotic dupes, and you have a scapegoat in the making. 1985
  • [Chomsky] has now been impeached by his own standards, since scrutiny of the evidence does not bear him out on Serbia or Afghanistan or Iraq. It didn't bear him out on Cambodia either, though he was never a "Holocaust denier" or anything like it. And he has, I think, ceased to be of any use to young people who might pardonably doubt the official story. 2004

MiscellaneousEdit

  • [I am persuaded by] the materialist conception of history. [33]
  • A theory that seems to explain everything is just as good at explaining nothing. [34]
  • (Howard) Dean is a raving nut bag...a raving, sinister, demagogic nutbag...I and a few other people saw that he should be destroyed.
    • Quoted in The New Yorker, October 2006. According to writer Ian Parker, this was Hitchens' response to a dinner-party guest who made a favourable comment about Howard Dean. Parker states that Hitchens appeared heavily drunk at the time.
  • Fine, now that I know that, to you, medical ethics are nothing, you've told me all I need to know. I'm not trying to persuade you. Do you think I care whether you agree with me? No. I'm telling you why I disagree with you. That I do care about. I have no further interest in any of your opinions. There's nothing you wouldn't make an excuse for. You know what? I wouldn't want you on my side. I was telling you why I knew that Howard Dean was a psycho and a fraud, and you say 'That's O.K.' Fuck off. No, I mean it: fuck off. I'm telling you what I think are standards and you say, 'What standards? It's fine, he's against the Iraq War.' Fuck. Off. You're MoveOn.org. Any liar will do. He's anti-Bush. Fuck off...Save it sweetie, for someone who cares. It will not be me. You love it, you suck on it. I now know what your standards are, and now you know what mine are, and that's all the difference -- I hope -- in the world.
    • Quoted in The New Yorker, October 2006. According to Ian Parker, this was Hitchens' response to the aforementioned dinner-party guest informing him that she supported Howard Dean because of his anti-war stance, and was not especially concerned about allegations that he had once lied about an abortion he had performed.
  • I mean, for me, it’s enough to be at war. The crucial thing is to be at war. [35]
  • The progress that's made ... in any argument or in any discussion is by confrontation. That's a dialectical fact. People say "oh let's have less heat and more light," fatuously. There's only one source of light. It happens to be heat.
    • May 4, 2008 TimesTalk [36]
  • And if I didn’t know better, I’d say they [the U.S. marines] were doing God’s work. Let them fear us. That’s the thing -- let them fear us. [37]
  • I’m too old to shoulder a rifle in any meaningful sense myself. [38]
    • Hitchens' response to the suggestion that those who preach war should consider fighting it themselves.
  • To be involved in this [the Iraq War], frankly, just makes me happy. [39]
  • You only said did I regret the targets I did pick. There are some I regret not picking. I was much too soft on Mugabe. I say it in my memoir. I claim to have had good reasons for it, and I was very keen to see the end of white supremacist dictatorship in Southern Africa and I was probably soft-pedalling what I knew about some of ZANU-PF. But having a good enough motive is not a good enough reason for doing something that was a betrayal, really, of principles. Anyway, hoping to see the end of these and others is a good reason for KBO. [40]
  • The cure for poverty has a name, in fact: it's called the empowerment of women. If you give women some control over the rate at which they reproduce, if you give them some say, take them off the animal cycle of reproduction to which nature and some doctrine—religious doctrine condemns them, and then if you'll throw in a handful of seeds perhaps and some credit, the floor of everything in that village, not just poverty, but education, health, and optimism will increase. It doesn't matter; try it in Bangladesh, try it in Bolivia, it works—works all the time. Name me one religion that stands for that, or ever has. Wherever you look in the world and you try to remove the shackles of ignorance and disease stupidity from women, it is invariably the clericy that stands in the way, or in the case of—now, furthermore, if you are going to grant this to Catholic charities, say, which I would hope are doing a lot of work in Africa, if I was a member of a church that had preached that AIDS was not as bad as condoms, I'd be putting some conscience money into Africa too, I must say.
    • Debate vs. Tony Blair, "Be it Resolved, Religion is a Force for Good in the World" (November 26, 2010), Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Ontario.

Our Friends in BombayEdit

  • It's in human nature to mention any personal connection when offering solidarity, so I shall just briefly say that on my first visit to India, in 1980, I stayed at the Taj Mahal in Bombay, visited the "Gateway of India" and took a boat to Elephanta Island, toured the magnificent railway station, had my first diwali festival at Juhu beach, and paced the amazing corniche that was still known by some—after its dazzling string of lights—as "Queen Victoria's necklace." Wonderful though some of the 19th-century British architecture can be, Bombay is quintessentially an Indian achievement, and an achievement of all its peoples from the Portuguese-speaking Catholic Goans to the Zoroastrian Parsis.
  • An impressive thing about India is the way in which it has almost as many Muslim citizens, who live with greater prospects of peace and prosperity, as does Pakistan. This comity and integration is one of the many targets of the suicide killers, and it is another reason why firm, warm solidarity with India is the most pressing need of the present hour.

Quotes about HitchensEdit

  • Since Hitchens evidently does not take what he is writing seriously, there is no reason for anyone else to do so. The fair and sensible reaction is to treat all of this as some aberration, and to await the return of the author to the important work that he has often done in the past.
  • Hitchens identified himself for many years as the heir to me ... unfortunately, for him, I didn't die.
  • Christopher Hitchens is a remarkable commentator. He jousts with fraudulence of every stripe and always wins. I regret he has only one life, one mind, and one reputation to put at the service of my country.
  • Hitchens is also a militant atheist, or as he prefers to term it "anti-theist." I wish it were not so, because I'd love to have Hitchens' rapier wit and bohemian elegance on our side.
  • Hitchens maintains that that "there is a close fit between the democratically minded and the pro-American" in the Middle East - like "President for Life" Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan...that [referring to 9/11] "Washington finally grasped that "there were `root causes behind the murder-attacks" [emphasis in original] (but didn't Hitchens ridicule any allusion to "root causes" as totalitarian apologetics?)...that "racism" is "anti-American as nearly as possible by definition"...that "evil" can be defined as "the surplus value of the psychopath"...is there a Bartlett's for worst quotations?
  • Two altogether opposed political stances can each draw an audience's attention. One is to be politically consistent, but nonetheless original in one's insights; the other, an inchoate form of apostasy, is to bank on the shock value of an occasional, wildly inconsistent outburst. The former approach, which Chomsky exemplifies, requires hard work, whereas the latter is a lazy substitute for it. ... The master at this pose of maverick unpredictability used to be Christopher Hitchens. Amidst a fairly typical leftist politics, he would suddenly ambush unsuspecting readers with his opposition to abortion, admiration of the misogynist and juvenile lyrics of Two Live Crew ("I think that's very funny"), or support for Columbus's extermination of Native Americans ("deserving to be celebrated with great vim and gusto"). Immediately the talk of the town became, "Did you read Hitchens this week?"
    Although a tacit assumption equates unpredictability with independence of mind, it might just as well signal lack of principle.
  • That such a dynamic speaker, writer and thinker has devolved into a sputtering death-loving crank is certainly sad, especially for us who knew him back in the day.
  • What you have witnessed since Christopher Hitchens’s opposition to the 1991 invasion of Iraq is something unique in natural history: the first ever metamorphosis of a butterfly into a slug.
    • George Galloway, [48]
  • A short list of the greatest living conversationalists in English would probably have to include Christopher Hitchens....Great brilliance, fantastic powers of recall and quick wit are clearly valuable in sustaining conversation at these cosmic levels. Charm may be helpful too....
  • A couple of months after the invasion of Iraq, I was in Los Angeles and some drunk accosted me, saying, "George Bush was right about everything he said about Iraq!" - weapons of mass destruction, the al-Qaeda connection and more. It was Christopher Hitchens, "debating" me, and furious. His confusing our President's assertions with reality was a verbal pie he threw in the air and caught on his face.
  • Long ago he came out against abortion. Interesting! Then he discovered and made quite a kosher meal of the fact that his mother, deceased, was Jewish, which under Jewish law meant he himself was Jewish. Interesting!! (He was notorious at the time for his anti-Zionist sympathies.) In the 1990s, Hitchens was virulently, and somewhat inexplicably, hostile to President Bill Clinton. Interesting!!! You would have thought that Clinton’s decadence — the thing that bothered other liberals and leftists the most — would have positively appealed to Hitchens. Finally and recently, he became the most (possibly the only) intellectually serious non-neocon supporter of George W. Bush’s Iraq war. Interesting!!!! ... Well, ladies and gentlemen, Hitchens is either playing the contrarian at a very high level or possibly he is even sincere.
  • Eloquent, witty, literate, intelligent, knowledgeable, brave, erudite, hard-working, honest (who could forget his clean-through skewering of Mother Teresa's hypocrisy?), arguably the most formidable debater alive today yet at the same time the most gentlemanly, Christopher Hitchens is a giant of the mind and a model of courage.
  • Christopher Hitchens is a brilliant man, and there is no living journalist I more enjoy reading.
  • I had an old rule that I would never debate Hitchens about anything—he is one of the great intellects and wits of the age—since there was no chance I would ever win.
  • I don't think there is anyone in the world who when I see the byline, I want to read the article more. He makes us think differently about things, I don't know of a higher praise I can say to an author.
  • Well-travelled, hyper-educated, pissed-off, always funny, Christopher Hitchens has no equal in American journalism.
    • Voice Literary Supplement [57]
  • The man can write. He has lived a life. He has seen for himself, making it a point to travel regularly to dangerous and wretched nations. He has been a man of political passion, beginning first as a Trotskyite and becoming in recent years a supporter of the Neocon war in Iraq. ... He exists as that most daring of writers, a freelance intellectual. He's a good speaker, can be funny, has bad teeth, is passably good-looking, and is at no pains to be a charmer.
  • Nothing about Christopher Hitchens disagreeing with me depresses me. It means I'm probably wrong, I got a lot more thinking to do, but it never seems to me that he is disingenuous, it never seems to me that he is lying or scamming me and it never seems to me that he's fucking crazy, we just disagree. In my idea of utopia, that's how I want to feel about everyone I disagree with.
  • In person, as on the page, Hitchens is in masterly possession of what he calls saeva indignatio, that "combination of cheek and anger to point out how the world falls short of its pretensions". He is a skilled orator, working, as far as I could see, without a text or notes. He chooses his weapons carefully, and is efficient either as a sniper or as a bombardier unloading the full arsenal of his invective. But he is also a barnum, of the type so congenial to that quintessentially American tradition of cracker-barrel salesmanship. When an elderly woman rises to challenge Hitchens, he quips: "Mother, I told you not to do this." Thus her question is deflected, amid the general laughter of an audience who are now behaving as so many valets to this lofty wit.
  • So only atheists are in a comfortable position to cast the first stone, and Christopher Hitchens, in "God Is Not Great," relishes the role. He has the credentials, as both a combative journalist and a surprisingly erudite literary scholar, and he wants to break the diplomacy barrier and expose the preposterous presumptions and ignoble machinations that stain the history of all religions, bringing discredit that tends to get magnified over the years by a persistent pattern of coverup, veils of illusion , and denial of one design or another. These efforts at obfuscation are quite transparent under Hitchens' s merciless scrutiny, and the results are often quite comical.
  • My friend Christopher Hitchens is a writer of truly incandescent prose ... one of the best writers to ever draw breath.
  • The man had more wit and style and substance than a few civilizations I could name.
  • Christopher Hitchens is the most extraordinary writer. I would say the premier living essayist in the English language. He can write on an amazing array of subjects with extraordinary knowledge. Nobody has his range or his eloquence.
  • It was from him that I first learned, often with the force of revelation, many of the main ideas of the Marxist tradition.


MisattributedEdit

  • BUSH IS NOT GREAT (HE'S MARVELLOUS!)
    • Headline in the June 8 2007 edition of British satirical magazine Private Eye, accompanying a Hitchens parody piece.
  • Many stupid people refuse to believe in a supreme power. I felt like that once but then I had a moment of revelation when I realised that everyone was talking nonsense and that there was an all-powerful benign intelligence that controlled our destinies. The ignorant and uneducated blamed Him for allowing wars in which thousands died or floods in which people's homes were swept away while He merely looked on. "Why does He allow evil to happen?" they asked, as if this was a sensible question. But it isn't. The fact remains that George Bush does exist. Although He moves in mysterious ways and His sayings are sometimes difficult to comprehend, if we have faith in George Bush all will be revealed and our lives will be transformed. We could not wish for more.
    • The aforementioned Private Eye parody piece.
  • Many are the cheap and easy laughs in which one could indulge at the extraordinary, pitiful hysteria of those attempting to see something suspect, or even less than laudable, in Dick Cheney’s entirely justified, indeed, necessary, shooting of Harry Whittington. According to no less an authority than the so-called ‘Daily’ Kos, Mr Whittington apparently had a ‘right’ (granted by whom?) to wander, uncalled for and unmarked, directly into the sites of the man who was praised for his shooting by no less an authority than Lee ‘Harvey’ Oswald, back in the days when the Democratic Party still fought against totalitarianism, before the Jihadist wing of the extremist party of the Michael Moore faction staged their grisly coup ‘d’etat’ (a French word meaning, originally ‘Islamo-jihadist of the Left’ [...] but no less an authority than an old friend of mine who works and fights high up in the upper echelons of the so called state ‘department’ a man entirely untouched by the vagaries and conspiracies of the thuggish authoritarianism of the so called ‘C’ IA which ran through the cobbled streets of the State like a veritable whirlwind of Reaganite self-certainty, disenobling the watery flow of power from that much vaunted fountain of secularism best known as the white ‘house’ to those too ignorant to realise its true role as the ‘house’ of the illuminati: as this man, to repeat, told me, myself, and, indeed, I (or as it were, we) this Mr Whittington was on his way, even as Dick unleashed his mighty cannon, to buy uranium from Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, who are, as we speak, meeting on the so called ‘far’ side of the moon in order to unveil a proto-’ji’ hadist empire of neo-caliphatinism a word that, were it to be real, would be no less real than the threat of apres-jihadist terror that my good friend ‘dick’ had the temerity, indeed, the accuracy, to stop.
    • Parody of Hitchens which appeared on the website HitchensWatch on February 14th 2006. Parts of the text have since been presented on other websites as genuine Hitchens quotes.[68]

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Last modified on 11 April 2014, at 17:33